ConnectWise – Quosal, LabTech and ConnectWise
ConnectWise – Sell, Automate and Manage
- In French Cooking it’s Mirepoix
- In Italian Cooking it’s Soffreto
- In Cajun Cooking it’s the Holy Trinity
- In IT Services it’s ConnectWise
In this episode we are going to talk about the three tools that I use to run our managed services business. Over the years we have standardized on tools that have been acquired by IT PSA vendor ConnectWise.
We’ll talk about using a quoting tool and why you need it to be successful. Remote Monitoring and Management and how you should be using it to save time on your helpdesk and why having a PSA or CRM tool like ConnectWise Manage is absolutely essential for a managed services business.
Why you might need ConnectWise
You might need ConnectWise Sell if you are:
- Creating quotes for hardware, software, services and recurring services
- Managing your sales processes like a real business – tracking profit, sales activities, and oppurtunities.
- Constantly looking for the latest products and SKU’s to sell to your customers.
You might need ConnectWise Automate if you:
- Monitor and Manage your customer computer
- Profit by being more efficient and doing less reactive work
- Need the ability to bill for your services based on knowing the number of machines a customer has.
any finally you might need ConnectWise Manage if you are:
- In the IT Business …
Some other tools we talked about in this episode
Quotewerks by Aspire Software
We have used Quotewerks for over 10 years and really like some of the features that they bring to the table. If you are evaluating quoting tools I strongly recommend you take a look at Quotewerks. (side note… never name your product, something that is spelled wrong, if your prospects can’t find you they can’t buy from you).
Nilear is an awesome set of tools that integrate with your ConnectWise Manage and Automate systems to give you a wealth of features that are not available in the software. In this episode we talk about the Delta Station function of the toolset that audits and allows for rollbacks in the ConnectWise Automate system,. but we use much more of this system to manage our service team. Check out Nilear, I highly recommend it.
Ninite Pro or Ninite One is the command line tool version of Ninite. Ninite allows for installation and upgrades of many common desktop applications.
Ninite tries to behave exactly a seasoned tech that is installing applications on a users’ desktop. It does it so it…
- Say “No” to toolbars or other junk
- Always install the latest version of an app
- Install the right 32-bit or 64-bit version for a PC
Install apps in the PC’s language
- Skip apps that are already up-to-date
- Upgrade an app if it’s out of date
Here is a list of the applications supported by Ninite
Some other PSA and RMM tools to check out
Other things to do
Don’t forget to scale it up!
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Help a Brother Out
Terry Rossi: In French cooking, it’s called mirepoix. In Italian cooking, sofrito. In cajun cooking, it’s the Holy Trinity. But in IT services, it’s ConnectWise. Today, we’re going to talk about the ConnectWise Holy Trinity: ConnectWise Sell, formerly known as Quosal; ConnectWise Automate, formerly known as LabTech; and ConnectWise Manage, the flagship PSA product that made ConnectWise what it is today.
Female Voice-over: Welcome to the IT Provider Network. Are you a managed service entrepreneur wanting to take your business to the next level? Do you excel in IT but feel your business management could be better? Join Terry Rossi where every episode, he shares the skills, tips, and tricks that help him to build a successful worldwide business.
Terry: Hi, and welcome to Episode 8 of the IT Provider Network podcast. My name is Terry Rossi and as always, I’m here to help you build and scale your managed services business by sharing some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the last 20 years of running our computer company. Hopefully, my interest sparks some kind of emotion within you, as it seems lately, emotions are running really hot when users are talking about ConnectWise and their products. If you’ve been following the sub-Reddit called MSP or reading any of the industry blogs, you’ve seen two hot topics surrounding ConnectWise. One of them is about an ongoing feud with them and Kasea and their sales practices, one accusing the other of playing dirty pool and the other is about ongoing patching issues with ConnectWise Automate which is the former LabTech product. The heat around LabTech was brought to light by the worldwide panic of the WannaCry virus, the WannaCry ransomware threat. MSPs were taking deep into their patching and discovering all kinds of issues and machines that haven’t been patched in months. Patching is one of those things that certain MSPs pay very close attention to and others don’t pay any attention to until there’s some kind of worldwide crisis like that or a really severe patch that needs to be deployed. Well, a lot of automate users recently discovered that the patch manager was broken and for some of them, it has been broken since they upgraded the version 12 many months ago.
ConnectWise was forthcoming in the Reddit channel and they basically said they’re here to help. They want to help and they don’t know of any known issues with the product. Well, the problem is patching is a very complex thing in the Windows environment, especially the way LabTech does it. It relies on tools that they provide, tools that Windows provide, and it also relies on certain settings being set correctly on the users machine. I must say I’m not immune to patching problems with ConnectWise Automate myself. We’ve had our share of them over the years, although right now it seems to be just fine.
I want to take you back to 2010 when I decided to go with LabTech, now ConnectWise Automate instead of Kasea. I remember the pricing was grossly different. Kasea was very expensive. They were the worldwide leader, the behemoth in the RMM space and LabTech was a little startup that ConnectWise just invested into. LabTech’s price was about half Kasea back then and we were kind of instrumental in getting Kasea to lower their pricing. We worked at the straw that broke their pricing back so to speak. We ended up going with LabTech anyway because back then when you purchase Kasea–I can’t speak for it now, I haven’t looked at the product in several years, but back then it was a blank sheet. You just got a tool that did incredible things but you needed all the skill and talent to put it together and make it something viable. With LabTech, you got kind of a starter set. You got some templates, you got some schedules, you got some scripts and monitors. For me, that was the deciding decision. I was coming off of what was the Zenith platform back then, later became Continuum, and I was used to all these knock-related things being done for me. I was now going to have to build up a staff to do it internally. So it was a big deal to get a little starting kit.
We implemented LabTech which is now again ConnectWise Automate, and to be honest, we implemented it about three times, and I think we’re probably due for our fourth one right now. It’s very easy to get an unstable environment with the product. There’s a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of moving parts that can break without you really knowing it. One of the ways we make sure we can audit our changes in LabTech is by using a third-party tool called Nilear. Nilear is a set of tools for ConnectWise and LabTech that really extend the product. I recommend you check it out. It’s something we’ve been using for years. But one of the lesser known features in the product is called Delta Station, and Delta Station tracks changes made in your LabTech configuration and it gives you the ability to compare and actually restore a previous version. So really, really, really a valuable tool especially if you have multiple people making changes to your LabTech environment.
So the Automate product like this one tool that we’re going to talk about today, we’re also going to talk about LabTech’s quoting tool which was also on acquisition. It was formerly known as Quosal, and now it’s known as ConnectWise Sell. Not the most original name in the world but you get the idea of what it does. If you’re just starting out, you may not have a quoting tool, but it’s something I think you just should definitely invest in. There are two main players in our space and they’re QuoteWerks and Quosal. And again, the Quosal product is now called ConnectWise Sell.
So let me tell you a little bit about QuoteWerks first, and for full disclosure, this is the tool I’ve used for the last ten years or so to do my quoting. I actually bought it when I saw how nice the proposal was that I received from ConnectWise when I was going to buy their ConnectWise product back in 2008. So let that set in. The quote I received from ConnectWise was done in QuoteWerks. And that was true up until a few years ago. They used QuoteWerks to do the quoting and it was also one of the only automations from a quoting tool in the ConnectWise. That all changed when ConnectWise decided to enter the quoting space and purchased Quosal.
QuoteWerks and Quosal or ConnectWise Sell both bring some awesome tools to the table when you’re selling. The main features of the products are the ability to produce really good-looking quotes and proposals first and foremost. They can be multipage proposals. They can include product literature, master services agreements, your managed services agreements. Any kind of documentation that you want to bundle together and look really nice for your prospect. They also include the ability to integrate to popular PSA and CRM tools. So ConnectWise, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, NextSuite, etc. Whatever your CRM or PSA is, usually the quoting tool will integrate right into their opportunities and activities.
Both tools have the ability to use Etilize. And Etilize allows you to get accurate product numbers, descriptions, part numbers. And if you have electronic agreements with your distributors, you can also get real-time pricing and availability. I use it to get that from Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex, and DNH, the four main distributors I use for the bulk of my hardware and software purchases. They also give you the ability to update opportunities that I mentioned. You can procure your products and accept orders online with visibility through the whole quoting sect.
Both QuoteWerks and ConnectWise Sell are excellent products. I am however moving to ConnectWise Sell for two main reasons. The first is it’s a Cloud-based product and part of my sales team is not in the office. So QuoteWerks is a classic database-driven client front-end quoting tool. We can use it on a terminal server but it’s really difficult for my salespeople that are not kind of technically challenged. They need to be able to drop and drag things and copy and paste things. And it just causes me a lot of grief when I have to support them. So it’s an on-premise product with the exception of the QuoteValet tool which is their online ordering portal. It’s pretty much hosted by yourself. Quosal on the other hand is 100% cloud-based. It’s owned by ConnectWise and the integration is getting tighter and tighter every year with ConnectWise Manage, and even ConnectWise Automate. So you can from a single pane of glass within ConnectWise Manage, pull up your Quosal quote, work it through the workflow, and then actually go into your opportunity, procure the products, etc. That to me is an advantage. It’s going to be critical for us to keep all the data in one place.
So Quosal or ConnectWise Sell is the first leg in the holy trinity of the ConnectWise product, is their quoting tool. Without it, you’re just working that gets the stack deck. In order to be profitable in the hardware and software sales end of our business, you need to be able to crank out quotes right away and with minimal effort. Customers are willing to pay a little bit more from us because we’re adding value. But they’re not willing to pay more and wait forever for a quote. We need to get those quotes done right away and get them out. So if you haven’t invested in the quoting tool, I highly recommend you look at QuoteWerks or Quosal, and I’ll put a link to those in the show notes at the itprovidernetwork.com/eight.
The second leg of the ConnectWise Holy Trinity is the PSA or ConnectWise Manage. Wikipedia defines a PSA or professional services automation package as “software designed to assist professionals such as lawyers, auditors and IT consultants with project management, project resource for clients and metrics to quantify and qualify their business processes.” So the big difference between a CRM and a PSA is usually they have help desk and that help desk usually has metrics. That’s what I find to be the big difference. Project management, another big advantage to a PSA or a CRM. In my opinion, you cannot run a managed services business without a CRM. And I would almost say that you can’t really run a profitable one without ConnectWise.
So what is it? Well, if you look down the menu tree of ConnectWise, you’d see some features that are really, really critical for an MSP or an IT service provider. The first is help desk management. ConnectWise has a full help desk or service desk as they call it that allows your text to be able to open tickets, log tickets, work on tickets, close tickets, all within the desktop interface. But it also allows your clients to be able to participate in the ticket via email so they can–Your service technician can open a ticket. It will send your customer an email. Your customer can then choose to reply back to that email. And ConnectWise calls this closed-loop ticketing. So the whole ticketing conversation if you will can occur via email.
It also has a full-blown project management system. And I’ll be perfectly frank with you, I don’t use the project management system myself that much, although others in my company certainly do. And we use projects as opposed to standalone service tickets for anything that’s going to be over eight hours or require more than one resource. So if we need to manage resources or manage a lot of time, then we use the project management section of ConnectWise Manage to do that. There’s also the ability to import a Microsoft Project project into it, so if that’s your tool of choice you can do that and import that into ConnectWise. For all your KPIs, there’s dashboards and reportings. Each of the major areas within ConnectWise has some reports, a report writer, and some dashboards. So sales, service, finance, they all have reports and dashboards built right into the product. And then in the last year or year and a half, they’ve implemented a report writer that’s also built right into their product.
Of course, it’s got a full-blown CRM with contact management, activity management, opportunity management, all the stuff you need for your sales force to be able to work with your customers. They also have a marketing manager platform that enables you to group contacts and companies and then be able to mass mail them or add them to what they call a track which is a workflow. There’s billing, a complete obviously billing module within the software, and the billing is all-encompassing. It handles straight time and material stuff. It handles block time agreements. It handles full and partial fee managed services agreements. It also integrates with many, many tools in the marketplace that you’ll use in your business such as backup and disaster recovery devices where you want to track space used or machines covered. It integrates with things like Office 365 and it’s yours so that you can track the number of seats that are licensed and bill those monthly with minimal grief and aggravation. And, really, it integrates with almost any product you would want to bill.
There’s also a customer portal where the customers can use the web to look at their tickets, their open invoices, open a new ticket, that kind of stuff. We have a couple customers that do that. For the most part though, most of them do not. It has some ability to automate things so it was workflow for service tickets, workflow for projects, workflow for opportunity, workflow for opportunities. A good example of that would be if you have a ticket that’s in a certain state. So let’s say the ticket is in the waiting on customer state, you’re waiting for the customer to respond, after x amount of days, do something. Tell the customer via an email that, “Hey, we’re still waiting for this.” Or maybe after you’ve told them once and you’re waiting again for a period of time, close out the ticket. So all kinds of helpful workflow automation that’s in the product.
And I believe, again, I know that it has a mobile app. Again, we don’t use that too much but it’s really handy to look up a telephone number or a customer’s address when you’re on the road. Some companies that do a lot of field service will find they use that app to log their time when their technician is on the road. We’re pretty much full fixed fee so we don’t really have a need for that. But some companies definitely would. And then there’s a full development network. So if you need a plugin developed or if you need a tool set custom-made for you, you could do that. We’ve actually done that. On our software development side, we’ve made like a developer priority task list tool that we used. It prioritizes open tickets for the developer in such a way that it makes it easy for him to consume the work he needs to do. So great developer network. Open APIs. They just recently switched everything over to a REST API. Really, really a robust product. That’s what I like about it.
And when we looked for a product back in 2008, one of our biggest problems was we had these big silos of data, right? We had a billing system that was for time and materials, billing over here. We had some data in QuickBooks. We had data and consultants heads. We had passwords and configurations. All that kind of stuff all over the place, and it just really was starting to become a big hindrance for our company. So by implementing ConnectWise, we forced everyone into the system, 30 users at the time, and we forced them to use the system for everything. So it really, really paid off and I really recommend that that’s what you do. Become fully committed to the product. If you don’t, you’re not going to see value from it.
So that’s ConnectWise Manage, the second in the Holy Trinity of the ConnectWise products. The third one, we’ve talked about a little bit, and it’s the RMM tool. It’s the ConnectWise Automate product, formerly known as LabTech. So an RMM tool as I said is for remote monitoring and management. It really is your gateway into your customers’ networks and your customers’ systems. And the ConnectWise Automate product allows you to work on those systems from your help desk. So what are the features of it? Well, the first and foremost one, and this is the one that most people lean on the most, although I would encourage you to lean on it the least, is the remote control product.
Now, over the years, LabTech has used different methods to log you into customers’ computers. The original one was LabVNC. Then they had a TeamViewer integration. Then they had another integration, I don’t even remember. But recently, they purchased a product called ScreenConnect, and that’s the default of standard now. And the product is excellent. You can be connected to a customer’s machine in barely a second. Very, very good remote control tool that’s built into the product. Allows you to transfer files back and forth from a customer, take screen prints, and obviously control their desktop.
So that’s the number one feature. The second feature that I would say that’s a big deal in the ConnectWise Automate product is the patch management, right? So out of the box, you have the tools that you need to be able to deliver and stay on top of Windows updates and patches for your clients. This a big deal. This is one of the cornerstones of a managed service practice. We want to be able to provide these centralized services like patching and ConnectWise Automate allows you to do that. The third thing that it does really well is what’s called scripting. So with scripting, you can pretty much automate any process. And a really, really good way to look at this and what you should do with it is to automate things that you can fix automatically. And what I mean by that is remediate problems via a script so that your technicians don’t need to get involved.
So if you’re new to RMM tools, let me give an example. Let’s say that you have a server that’s running QuickBooks and on the QuickBooks server is the QuickBooks database manager service. So what you could do with ConnectWise Automate is have a monitor that looks at that service and makes sure it’s running. So the typical monitor in ConnectWise Automate would be the services set to auto, meaning it should be running, and it’s not running. That would cause that monitor to trigger, to fail. What you could do then is follow a series of steps to try to remediate that problem. This is occurring without a technician involved. So with our script, what we might typically do for that ConnectWise database monitor is we might say, “Okay, the services stopped. What do I want to do?” Okay. Well, I want to open a ticket in ConnectWise Manage. I want to start accumulating time. I want to go to the machine that’s the database server and I want to attempt to restart the service. Then maybe I want to wait ten seconds then I want to check the status of the service. If it’s running great, I’ll go back to ConnectWise Manage, I’ll close out the ticket, log 15 minutes of time, and that will be the end of it.
But if it doesn’t work, then maybe I want to try some other things. Maybe I want to make sure there’s this space. Maybe I want to make sure…whatever. There’s errors in the log. If I see any of that, I want to add all that to the ticket. If I can remediate it and get the service running, great. If I can’t, I’ve now built a ticket, I can assign it to an engineer, I can put it in the state that’s critical, and I can load up the internal description in the ticket with any of the facts that I’ve gathered. So I need the log file outputs, any of the standard output of me trying to restart the service, etc. So you can see this is hugely powerful. Take what would be a normal manual operation, typically not even known until the customer called you because QuickBooks doesn’t work. And automatically try to identify it, remediate it, and log the ticket, or log the effort. Really, really powerful stuff. Scripting engine in LabTech is very good. I must say I hate the scripting editor but I like the scripting engine.
ConnectWise Automate also allows for plugins just like ConnectWise manage does, although they’re more device- and solution-specific here. The bulk of the plugins you’re going to use are going to be for things like monitoring backup jobs and monitoring other applications outside of the control of LabTech, automating things outside of Windows. So one of the big plugins that we use is called Ninite One. And you may have heard of Ninite. You can go to ninite.com and see what they do. But basically, they create minimal installers for many, many products that users have on their desktop. So if you wanted to set up a new PC to go to Ninite, select the 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 applications that you want to put on the desktop, click Go. It would create an installer without all the baggage and Yahoo toolbars, that kind of stuff. Download that to your PC. It would go through all the installations needed for your desktop.
Ninite One is the command liner or commercial version of that tool. And one of the things it can do is audit what’s already on the desktop of the user, and then see if any of those applications need updating. Again, this plugin in combination with the script and a monitor can create a ticket, show what you updated, log the time, and close it out all without your technician doing anything. So that’s, again, one of the big features of ConnectWise Automate, is the ability to save time and not have your users working on things that could be done with a machine.
One of the other big things ConnectWise Automate can help you with is hardware provisioning and software deployment. So the big key here is that when you onboard a machine or group of machines, you can assign certain parameters to those machines, the group, the client, and then have certain actions take place as part of the onboarding. So what we do when we onboard customers is we might install our antivirus to any spyware, we might change their DNS servers to the ones we like to use, we might install Webroot or we might install open DNS umbrella clients. Something like that. All of these steps can be automated when you’re onboarding a client by simply setting a few global parameters in the client or the location, and then running the client through the onboarding process. Hugely beneficial. Another advantage is if you’re upgrading software. So for example, you take a client to Office 365 and they purchased the E3 plan, let’s say, you want to give them the latest Office applications. You can run a script that will uninstall, upgrade or reinstall Office 2016 and get rid of the old Office 2010, Office 2013 type of software. If you’re operating in any kind of scale, this is hugely beneficial. And this is ConnectWise Automate, the third leg of the Holy Trinity for ConnectWise.
So I don’t want this to sound like a ConnectWise plug, but I’ve been a customer of ConnectWise for quite a long time now. And I must say I think it’s an excellent company. I know they get some bad press in the industry, and most of those are from either disgruntled customers or people that can’t afford the product or people that feel slighted. It is a product designed for technical people to run a business. It doesn’t work out of the box without effort. You have to put effort into all three of these products to make them valuable for you. But the effort is paid off in spades over time. The work that you put in to any one of these products will be paid off in multiples going forward. So I encourage you to put the effort into it and do what needs to be done to get the product in a position that it’s benefiting your company, in a place where it’s adding value to your staff, to your support staff, to your sales staff, to your finance staff.
Get it to a place where the owners of the company are able to look at dashboards, reports, KPIs, and be able to judge the health of your company. That’s where you really start to see value. You can make hiring decisions. You can make investment decisions. You can buy new tools. You can see if the investment in those tools paid off. All of these things require effort. But the products are solid. I encourage you to check them out. I encourage you to check out the other products in the marketplace too. The big ones I can think of are Kasea, obviously. They have a PSA product now I believe they call the BMS. They also have obviously an RMM tool. Again, QuoteWerks for quoting. On the RMM platform, there are several out there. The ones I could think of are Ninja RMM, SolarWinds RMM tool.
So that’s it for Episode 8 of the IT Provider Network. I do want to thank you for taking time out of your day to listen to the show. I know that your time is valuable. And I also know that I’m just getting started and I’m not quite as entertaining as I would like to be but I do appreciate you tuning in. I think it’s great that we’re starting to build a little momentum here and people are listening and talking about the show. I actually received my first piece of feedback from Josh Kempt of Ozark Information Services the other day on LinkedIn, and he said that one of his engineers turned him on to the podcast. He thanked me for putting it together, and he said he listened to all of them. So that was great. He also said it was the first podcast he subscribed to which I felt honored obviously for that. And he was my first piece of feedback, so that’s great. I think this could be a good mechanism for us to share information so I welcome you to reach out to me at the itprovidernetwork.com or via any of the social media channels. You can find me on all of them.
Thanks again for listening. Have yourself a great day and we’ll talk again soon.
Female Voice-over: Thank you for joining us and we hope you’ve been inspired. Check us out on social media via @ITProviderNet. And visit us at www.itprovidernetwork.com for past episodes, show notes, videos and more. And we hope you’ll join Terry next time on the IT Provider Network.